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Nathalie Gorman (16 posts)
Each week, we'll be letting you know about the new releases the editors of O and Oprah.com couldn't stop reading. This week, we're obsessing over the new mystery:
Princess Elizabeth's Spy
By Susan Elia MacNeal
Maggie Hope, an American-raised Briton with outsize math skills and heaps of grit, has risen from her position as a typist at 10 Downing Street to a job as a spy for MI5. Her first assignment is pretty grand—she's sent to Windsor Castle to root out a German spy, who's planning to harm the young Princess Elizabeth. Maggie integrates into the palace rapidly, earning the clever young royal's trust and learning to deal with the surprising difficulties of living in a castle, which it turns out is "like living in a very cold museum in the off-season." But there's not much time to focus on all the frozen finery. Dangers to the princess proliferate rapidly, and Maggie races to find their instigator before it's too late. The ensuing chase is terrifying, but the true accomplishment of this book is the wonderfully complex Maggie, who is at once a brilliant heroine fighting against the Nazis, a young woman stuck in the middle of a painful love triangle, and an inexperienced professional trying to figure out her extremely difficult job. With deft, empathic prose, author Susan Elia MacNeal creates a wholly engrossing portrait of a coming-of-age woman under fire. Whether you read Mr. Churchill's Secretary, the first installment in this series, or you're just making Miss Hope's acquaintance, she'll draw you in from the first page. By the end, you'll be her loyal subject, ready to follow her wherever she goes—especially through the pages of a third installment.
More Fantastic Page-Turners
Each week, we'll be letting you know about the new releases the editors of O and Oprah.com couldn't stop reading. This week, we're enthralled by the page-turning novel:
The Incense Game: A Novel of Feudal Japan
By Laura Joh Rowland
It's 1703, and Japan's capital, Edo (now known as Tokyo), has been ravaged by an earthquake. The city is filled with rubble, and the rubble is filled with bodies. While surveying the wreckage, Sano Ichiro, samurai, former police investigator and chamberlain to the shogun, Japan's ruler, finds three female corpses with crimson eyes—two women and their teacher, who, at the time of their demise, were playing an ancient game that required them to guess the ingredients in complex blends of incense. Sano senses that something is off about the bodies, and a cursory probing reveals that they don't owe their deaths to violent seismic activity but rather to arsenic. Sano reports the murder to the police, only to find himself blackmailed into finding the killer himself. Along with his brilliant and just plain butt-kicking wife, Lady Reiko, and his adroit and precocious 12-year-old son, Masahiro, he sets out into the decimated city. The ensuing investigation is fascinating, in large part because of the window it gives into the universe of the shogun's court, whose calculating politics are as chilling as Edo's gray, decimated winter landscape. As Sano mournfully observes, when it comes to his colleagues who work in this system, "There's always someone who wants to knock the high chestnut out of the tree." It shouldn't be so much fun to watch the courtiers play their deadly games, but as anyone who's ever gone on a weekend-long Tudors binge knows, there are few things as delicious as a good old-fashioned power struggle—especially the costume-drama variety, involving sword battles and perfectly timed barbs exchanged by witty women pretending that they're just drinking tea.
Each week, we'll be letting you know about the new releases the editors of O and Oprah.com couldn't stop reading. This Monday, we can't get enough of two unusual mysteries set in Victorian England:
The Pigeon Pie Mystery
By Julia Stuart
This mystery is a delicate yet kooky romp. At the book's heart is Mink, formally known as Her Highness Princess Alexandrina, daughter of the Maharaja of Prindur. Raised by her exiled father in England, the princess finds herself destitute upon his death thanks to his taste for luxury. Luckily, Queen Victoria offers her a "grace-and-favor" home at Hampton Court Palace, a refuge for the genteel-and-cash-strapped. Mink moves to a house near the castle's maze, a popular tourist attraction. Before long, though, she's drawn into a maze of a different kind: the investigation of the death of one of the palace's least popular residents, General Bagshot, who appears to have died from eating a poisoned pigeon pie. But as Mink investigates, she finds something surprising: a group of people filled less with malice than with a desire for love in a world that offers little of it. Their longing gives them a zany wisdom that helps Mink find her own place in the world. As one character admonishes, it's a poor choice to "fall into the fatal habit of thinking that if you were somewhere different, life would be so much better. There are moths everywhere." And it's true: There are moths—and many other things that eat away at clothes and souls—no matter where one looks in Mink's world. Every life is its own maze, and escape is not the solution. Instead, it's best to find a little place for oneself within the tall, impenetrable hedges.
The Thing About Thugs
Amir Ali has changed his identity to escape from a family feud in India. He claims to be an ex-Thug, a former member of the (made-up) Thuggee cult, which murders people for the sake of killing. As such, he allows himself to be "studied" by a phrenologist—a man who researches the so-called science of skulls and how their shape determines character. The phrenologist takes Amir to London to understand how a man with a skull that predisposes him to murder came to be reformed. This facilitates Amir's escape, but it lands him in an even bigger mess. In England, he finds a world replete with racism and a white upper class hell-bent on proving its own superiority through "scientific" means. The only way for him survive is to keep playing into the story of racial superiority that the upper class wishes to promote by showing himself off as a curiosity. Then, when a string of ugly murders takes place, Londoners unite in pointing fingers at Amir the Thug, and Amir's new identity becomes a liability. Who, after all, will believe in the innocence of a "confessed" murderer when they don't know that his story is a lie? As he searches for the real killers, he becomes confused as to who he really is. He wonders, almost obsessively, "Can stories—told by yourself, told by others—turn us into something else?" His saga shifts with every sentence. Will he find the killers stalking London? Will he find himself again? It's hard to know which question you want answered more—both will have you turning pages feverishly. But be warned: If you want a book with a neatly packaged ending, this isn't it. Rather, its elliptical conclusion is proof positive that when it comes to the really big stories, the ones that define who we are, the telling is never over.
Mysteries every thinking woman should read
Beach reads you'll blaze through
Each week, we'll be letting you know about new releases the editors of O and Oprah.com couldn't stop reading. This Monday, we're bowled over by the new novel:
The Sandcastle Girls
By Chris Bohjalian
Best known for his thrillers like Midwives, Chris Bohjalian has come out with a different kind of page-turner—a searing, tautly woven tale of war and the legacy it leaves behind. The novel is actually two stories in one: that of Elizabeth Endicott and Armen Petrosian, lovers who meet in Syria during the Armenian genocide; and that of Laura Petrosian, their adult granddaughter, who, nearly a century after her grandparents met, wants to make sense of why they were so silent about their youth. Laura's suburban existence is radically different from the violent setting in which her grandparents fell in love. Yet all three want the answer to one question: After such horror, is any kind of happiness possible? As a reader, you want so badly for Bohjalian's passionate characters to find some version of yes. And find it they do—but at a terrifying cost. This rendering of one of history's greatest (and least known) tragedies is a nuanced, sophisticated portrayal of what it means not only to endure but also to insist on hope.
Have you ever been too tough on yourself? Maybe once or twice? Yep, thought so. Spiritual teacher Caroline Myss says she's hard on herself, too. But this weekend, on Super Soul Sunday, she told Oprah: "I'm really good at also owning that I've become a pretty good person. I think of myself now as fine wine."
For perfectionists, that concept—that we can criticize errors and accept that, like a good merlot, we're gotten better as we've aged, and even become pretty darn good—can be hard to swallow. "Good, yes," we say, "but good enough?" Caroline and Oprah's conversation is a great reminder that being where you are right now is very much worth celebrating.
Each week, we'll be letting you know about new releases the editors of O and Oprah.com couldn't stop reading. This week, we're in love with the memoir:
A young girl from Iowa moves to the big city, gets a job at a magazine, meets lots of fancy intellectuals, tries to turn herself into a personality—only to realize she's lost herself along the way. This sound like a familiar story? In the case of The Receptionist, it's not only true, but it also takes place in and around the fabled halls of The New Yorker, where Janet Groth was the 18th floor receptionist for 20 years.
Much of the story is envy-inducing. Groth dishes on nights listening to Thelonious Monk play jazz, drinking with Gloria Steinem; and being sent to a ball in the English countryside by Muriel Spark. On the other hand, Janet's meekness and her difficulty in persuading people to give her the respect she craves often undercut the glamour of the rarefied life she's found. For much of the book, she settles for the pleasure of being around brilliant people (both her colleagues and many lovers) as opposed to demanding, and getting, their real acknowledgment. A few recognize her talents, and many are kind, but she's frequently underappreciated and not sure how to change that. Groth, however, isn't a woman to give up, and by the end of the book, she finds her own delightful voice, which is the book's real pleasure.
Join Oprah's Book Club 2.0
Ask Oprah or Cheryl Strayed a question about Wild
50 Cent: artist, author, producer and...pedicurist
extraordinaire? Yep, that's right. Last week, he revealed to Oprah that he's
been doing his grandmother's toes for years, and he's really good at it. He
even throws in a foot massage. For more surprises, tune in for the Part 2 of
his interview with Oprah, this Sunday, June 17th, at 9/8c on Oprah's Next Chapter.
When it's 95 degrees in the shade, it's easy to feel like everything in your closet is either too casual or work-appropriate but likely to suffocate you somewhere between your house and the office. Calvin Klein's Francisco Costa is here to help. Costa has created a sleek capsule collection for Macy's. And Adam Glassman, O's Creative Director, says, "It looks fab!" The line, inspired by the designer's native Brazil, features sculptural dresses in light crepe and jersey. Best of all, the prices start at $135, so the pieces are as affordable as they are comfortable.
Some people probably put cards for their moms in the mail last weekend, just to make sure they arrived on time. If you, like us, did not do this, and are in fact still looking for a gift for the wonderful woman who raised you, we've got a suggestion: A FEED 10 bag from The Lady GODIVA Program and Lauren Bush Lauren. The proceeds from the sale of each of these bags provide 10 school meals for children in cocoa-sourcing regions on the Ivory Coast and in Ghana. The bags retail for $25 (add a 19 piece box of chocolates for $50 or a 36 piece box of chocolates for $65) and come in five different bright patterns. Each one is handmade by female artisans in Liberia. It's a unique gift, there's a sweet treat involved, and buying it does some good in the world. The upshot? Even if you're a little late getting the present, this one will definitely make your mother proud.
(In need of more gift inspiration? Consider some of the options on our Mother's Day Gift List, all of which are 20% off!)
Did you miss seeing Oprah on Jimmy Kimmel? Well, last night after the Oscars®, they chatted about a few things, like the time she almost got strangled during her first appearance at the awards, and what happens when she goes to the DMV, plus a few of Jimmy's ideas for new OWN shows. Our favorite: Book Club Fight Club.
To see what Oprah thought of Jimmy's ideas, and what happens when people annoy her in her office (hint: it ain’t pretty), check out the clips!